Airmen from Colorado Springs were ordered into battle against California wildfires Wednesday.
The crews from the 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base will use specially-equipped C-130 transports to drop retardant to slow the advance of fires that have blackened 601,000 acres in California in recent weeks. That includes the Mendocino Complex fire, which had spread to over 292,000 acres Wednesday.
The 302nd spent July battling wildfires in Colorado, helping to stop blazes in Teller County and the San Luis Valley.
The wing's firefighting planes are equipped with retardant tanks and a spray system that can discharge an instant fire line that's 20 yards wide and a quarter-mile long.
The 302nd airmen will join a growing military contingent fighting fires in California. The Colorado Springs unit sent one plane Wednesday that will join three others from sister units across the country.
Last week, the Pentagon ordered 200 soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington to head for firefighting duty in California.
The Defense Department forces fighting the California fires are working under orders from U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, which provides military assistance to local authorities dealing with disasters.
Wildfires have reached crisis proportions throughout the arid Western half of the United States.
"On July 27, the National Multi-Agency Coordination Group raised the National Preparedness Level to the highest level on its 1 to 5 scale due to growth of existing and new fires in California, the Great Basin and Northwest geographic areas," the 302nd said in a statement.
The severe wildfire conditions could mean that airmen from the 302nd could be called up for weeks of wildfire duty, but specifics on the length of their deployment have not been released.
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